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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership



Two day virtual hackathon, bringing together innovators from around the world to come up with solutions to help the British Antarctic Survey achieve net zero.


Two day hackathon, online

Who should apply?

Innovators willing to think creatively to achieve net zero for the benefit of the global ‘race to zero’, and for the benefit of remote communities and delicate polar environments in particular.

Key dates

10:00 to 17:00 BST on Friday 26 November and Friday 3 December.  

Teams shortlisted by the judging panel from the first hackathon will be invited to attend the second hackathon, to work up their proposals in more detail before three winners are chosen by judges at the end of the second day.  

The CISL Accelerator, in collaboration with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and Cambridge Zero, will host a two day hackathon, bringing together a global community of innovators to come up with solutions to help BAS achieve net zero across their operations by 2030 at their Rothera Research Station in Antarctica. 


    BAS delivers and enables world-leading interdisciplinary research in the Polar Regions. Its skilled science and support staff based in Cambridge, Antarctica and the Arctic work together to deliver research that uses the Polar Regions to advance our understanding of Earth and our impact on it. BAS is an institute of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and is part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Achieving net zero carbon emissions for the organisation by 2040 (aligned with the UKRI’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy) will be a challenge, especially for their five Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic Research Stations – thousands of miles away from towns and cities. However, the process is very similar to what all businesses and organisations globally will be going through over the coming months and years. Central to this particular challenge is:

    • how to radically reduce energy use; 
    • how to sensitively use renewable energy in a delicate environment, dealing with intermittency and seasonal variation in energy production; 
    • how to provide year round back up energy without costing the earth.  

    Add to this the remote location, climatic extremes and the need for robust systems that can be fixed locally and it’s a complex set of problems in need of a fresh and innovative approach. BAS and their team have been working hard on the solutions and can achieve around 70% of this with existing technologies and fuels, but are struggling to find appropriate and affordable solutions to take them the ‘last mile’.

    Working with innovative companies, we know that many of the solutions are out there. This two day hackathon, supported by BAS experts and leading academics from the University of Cambridge, aims to ‘hack for the Future we want’ by surfacing new solutions that will assist BAS on implementing this ambitious goal – but which are likely to also have wider applicability in the race to net zero. It takes place ahead of one of the most important global summits in human history.  

    We know that often innovation arises from very constrained situations or specific challenges with limited direct replicability – take for instance, the solar panel, invented by NASA in the space race. Through supporting BAS and their team, we hope to bring the best thinking from a diverse global innovation community to break new ground in the race to decarbonise our economy, in ways that tread lightly on our remaining planetary resources and are equitable and inclusive.


    Why join?

    • Opportunity to bring your solution to a new potential buyer (BAS)
    • Join an innovation community determined to tackle one of the world’s most pressing problems, that aims to find appropriate ways to decouple our economy from its fossil fuel dependency
    • Winners will benefit from publicity generated by CISL and Cambridge Zero


    Get involved

    We are calling on innovators from SMEs, corporates, academia and startups to join our innovation community. 

    • You will have knowledge, experience or ideas in net zero technology and decarbonising the built environment and/or fleet. However, we also welcome a wide range of disciplines to help unlock creative thinking and inspire radically new approaches (non-engineers welcome!)
    • You can enter as a team, or as an individual (looking to join a team). Maximum team size of six.
    • If you have any concerns about intellectual property which may limit your ability to participate, please get in touch via our ‘register your interest’ form.  


    Programme format

    This will be a virtual hackathon, designed to be as ‘pandemic proof’ as possible and to enable as wide participation as possible.  

    1. Teams can hack one, two or all three of the problems outlined 
    2. At the end of day 1 teams will present their solutions to the expert panel from BAS and the University of Cambridge
    3. Panel selects a small number of ideas/approaches it would like to explore further
    4. The chosen teams come back for the second hack to work up their ideas further
    5. Judges will select three winners from pitches at the close of day 2


    How to apply  

    If you would like to take part, please register your interest here